Malayalam industry is one of the most prominent industries in India, owing to the number of films, solid performances, and content generating storytelling. Despite, the low budget and less population to go for the movies, Malayalam industry has delivered a lot of memorable films in several genres. As a Malayali, for me, Malayalam films will always be special, no matter all those films with technical advancements in other industries. And, Malayalam cinema has evolved since the pathbreaking film “Chemeen”. Out of hundreds, it is very difficult for me to choose my top 30 favorite films. These films have affected me in many ways by breaking conventional stereotypes in terms of filmmaking, placed milestones, produced scope for performances, and remained in the memories of the audience for a long time, backed by nostalgic sentitments. I am not limiting my list to specific genre and would like to include all genres (even slapstick comedy).
Here are the list of my favorite Malayalam movies.
1. Perumazhakkalam (2004)
Directed by Kamal, Perumazhakkalam is the probably the first name that comes into my mouth when someone asks, “which is your most favorite Malayalam film?”. I watched this film when I was 11-years-old. Even today, intensity of the plot, performances, M Jayachandran’s music and the uplifting end haunts me. Perumazhakkalam is also one of the best woman centric films where we have Raziya (Meera Jasmine) from an orthodox Muslim family and Ganga (Kavya Madhavan) from an orthodox Brahmin community. Raziya’s husband Akbar (Dileep), an NRI who lives and works in Saudi Arabia, kills Raghu (Vineeth). After the death of her husband, Ganga was forced to undergo religious based oppression and had to live a grief-filled life. Until, Raziya comes across the threshold of their illam. Raziya begs for Ganga’s leniency for her husband (as per Sharia law, if the spouse of the deceased pardon the accused then capital punishment will be redacted). Ganga’s decision not only frees her from guilt but also from shackles that kept her within her grief and orthodoxy. We see Ganga leading an independent life and both Raziya and Ganga looks over to the “future”, their daughters.
I saw Nadodikattu one day on television and sat through the whole film. Sathyan Anthikkad’s direction based on a story by Siddique-Lal, Nadodikkattu is one film I don’t get tired of watching over and over. Mohanlal-Sreenivasan chemistry works wonders and Dasan-Vijayan friendship is one of the best on-screen friendships we known. The plot is hilarious and cleverly structured. Two hi-fi goons see Dasan and Vijayan as nerve-racking detectives whereas the duo is struggling to keep their stomach full. The ending of the film is best part in that sense. The film is funny, touching, and uplifting in many ways. We get to see cult characters like “Ananthan Nambiar” (Thilakan) the notorious drug dealer, Balagopalan (Innocent) and last but not the least, the serial killer “Pavanayi” (Captain Raju) who loses his dignity.
3.Nokkatha Doorath Kannum Nattu (1984)
There was a time when I used to wait impatiently till this film came on television. Nokketha doorath kannum nattu is a masterpiece result of a well thought out screenplay. an emotional story of a long distance bond between a mother-daughter, grandmother-granddaughter. Nadiya Moithu delivers an effortless performance along with rock solid presence of Padmini, Mohanlal and K.P Umar. The scene where Umar asks for her advice is one of the best moments from the movie.
4.Onnu Muthal Poojyam Vare (1986)
Onnu Muthal Poojyam Vare is a memorable film directed by Raghunath Paleri, adding his cents in each shot, every moment. The film captures both female gaze through the lead character and a clever plot line about a man having a phone conversation, only that he turns out to be someone who don’t have time for both the mother and daughter. It is a bittersweet story that touches you. Despite limited screen presence, Mohanlal delivers a top class performance in the climax of the film, one of the reasons behind the effectiveness of the same.
5.Ramji Rav Speaking
The adventure of the trio who left an everlasting impression; Balakrishnan (Sai Kumar), Gopalakrishnan (Mukesh) and Mannar Mathai (Innocent). The film shot all three of them to fame along with the new age directors who went on become the “hit-making” duo, Siddique-Lal. Balkrishnan and Gopalakrishnan are broke and they have deep debts. While the crisis leads to them one closed door after the other, fate brings a large sum to them in the form of a phone call. Gopalkrishnan simply decides to play a “game”. Ramji Rav speaking is a roller coaster ride with apt combination of comedy (presented in multiple shots), drama, romance, friendship, and memorable dialogues that still have their cult status. “Kambilipothappu!!!” remember? Saikumar delivered a class performance along with Mukesh’s vulnerability and Innocent’s dry humor. Rekha, Mamukoya and Sankaradi make effective presences.